Q. Whenever there's a thunderstorm my 8 year old dog gets scared, lays near me and starts panting. How can I help him?
A. Panting is a sign of stress. Feeding him treats when it begins to thunder could potentially help him make positive associations with thunderstorms. If you have a Kong, try filling the Kong with peanut butter, or some other delicious treat, and give it to him when the thunderstorm begins.
If your dog isn't taking treats from you, this is a sign that he has shut down mentally, and is too stressed and over threshold to accept treats. There are alternatives. Make sure there is some white noise present (either a loud fan, some music, or a television) so he isn't so focused on the sounds from the storm. Thundershirts could also be a good option. I have not tried them personally (as I haven't ever needed to), but I've heard a lot of good things about them. It may be something worth looking into.